Tutsy Navarathna’s Double Award-Winning Machinima at SL12B

Tutsy Navarathna’s machinimas never fail to amaze me. The latest, MetaPhore, exceeds any I’ve seen before and received awards at both the University of Western Australia in Second Life’s MachinimUWA VII competition and on the same day, was winner of the SciFi Film Festival’s Screen my Short award.

You can see it at SL12B by teleporting to maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL12B%20Wonderous/98/180/22. Upon rezzing you’ll see five chairs. Sit in one of them and the chair will carry you into the viewing area, where you can watch the machinima.

You can also watch it on Vimeo (vimeo.com/110111415)or YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=zby0oM5xqaE).

Like all of Tutsy Navarathna’s machinimas, MetaPhore is filmed exquisitely. You’ll find some still frames from it below. I won’t give away the plot here, but it’s a love story, said to be based on a true story, with a twist that anyone who’s spent any amount of time in virtual worlds will recognize as plausible. If you don’t see it at SL12B, be sure to watch it on Vimeo or YouTube. It’s worth watching.

Second Life’s 12th birthday bash starts next weekend

In recent years my focus has been more on OpenSim than Second Life, but I’m looking forward to next week’s SL12B Community Celebration.  It opens on Sunday June 21, 2015, and runs through Sunday June 28.  You can see photos of SL12B on flickr. I spent the last year working mostly alone in an OpenSim virtual world I was building for a client.  With that behind me, returning to SL and taking part in SL12B will be almost like returning from a isolated mountain cabin to the bustling life of New York City or Paris. I’m looking forward to it and will be reporting from SL12B with lots of photos.

Burn 2 – what a disappointment!

What a disappointment!  You wait a year to see The Man burn in Burn 2 in Second Life, only to see a black void while others can see it and be part of it with no problem!

What went wrong?  I have no idea.  Some people could see the Man burn and could add logs to the blaze, while others like me couldn’t see or enter the sim.  This picture shows what it looked like for me.

Unable to see The Man burn
Man was burning out there somewhere, but many of us couldn't see him

I was using two computers, but had the same problem on both.  I tried three different avatars and five Second Life viewers (Phoenix, Imprudence, Firestorm, SL Viewer 3, and Kirstens), but all had the same problem.  I couldn’t see anything.  I don’t know whether the problem was the fault of Linden Lab or of the Burn 2 organization, or just a glitch in the matrix, but whatever it was, it was extremely frustrating to those of us who love this event and look forward to it every year.

There will be one more Man Burn in a couple hours, at 3:30am PST/SLT.  I expect that I’ll be asleep then.

The Temple Burn is tomorrow.  It’s my favorite event of Burn 2, even more than the Man Burn.  I hope it goes better than today.

The Temple is scheduled to burn at 11:30am PST/SLT Sunday, 3:30pm PST/SLT Sunday, and 3:30am PST/SLT Sunday.  Second Life members can teleport to The Man at slurl.com/secondlife/Burning%20Man-%20Black%20Rock/234/41/25 and to the Temple at slurl.com/secondlife/Burning%20Man-%20Black%20Rock/216/198/25 .

Earthquake / tsunami benefit planned in Second Life – how you can help

Radar Magazine in Second Life is planning a month-long benefit event to benefit victims of the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami.  The event will be co-sponsored by the Red Cross.

They are looking for Second Life designers to donate an item to sell or to create a one-of-a-kind item for a runway show planned for March 31.  The item will be auctioned off to the highest bidder, and funds will go to the relief fund.  They are also looking for volunteers to work at the event and for donors who want to help out

The dates for the event will be March 16-April 16.  If you would like to participate, contact Ji Nirvana in Second Life.

Other virtual worlds to visit besides Second Life

Second Life may be the 8000 pound gorilla in the virtual worlds universe, but it’s not the only one. There are several dozen worlds for you to choose from, though most are still small and even the largest doesn’t yet come close to matching Second Life’s massive user base.

Comparing worlds by population size is not easy, because of the difficulty in determining how many are actually active users, of determining how many are multiple avatars of a single person, and because not all worlds report population in the same way.

An alternate way of measuring world size is by the number of regions in that world.  HypergridBusiness.com reports that the dozen largest virtual worlds (Open Sim worlds and Second Life) by region are:

  1. Second Life: 31,552 regions
  2. OSGrid: 5,758 regions
  3. Avination: 925 regions
  4. Virtual Worlds Grid: 819 regions
  5. InWorldz: 816 regions
  6. New World Grid: 612 regions
  7. ScienceSim: 338 regions  (for science researchers and projects)
  8. AlphaTowne: 316 regions
  9. Meta7: 292 regions
  10. NexXtLife: 288 regions
  11. FrancoGrid: 262 regions  (French speaking)
  12. MyOpenGrid: 245 regions

OSGrid is run by the same group that has established the Open Sim platform for hosting virtual worlds.  All the virtual worlds on this list except Second Life are based on it.  It has a feature that will appeal to people like me: the ability to host a region in the world on your own computer, at no cost other than the cost of operating your computer.

Avination has unique feature that I haven’t encountered in other worlds: although when you’re creating your account, it forces you to choose from a list of avatar last names, you can change it to your Second Life avatar name through a two step process in which you first register your Second Life name with Avination and then visit an Avination ATM in Second Life, where you complete the linkage.  Avination appears to also offer the ability to use the ATM for transferring funds between it and Second Life through these ATMs, though I didn’t try it.

InWorlds is the world that people I know personally in Second Life are beginning to migrate to, and it’s the world that most favorably impressed me when I first logged on.

I wasn’t able to open an account in Virtual Worlds Grid.  I tried but wasn’t able to navigate to the account creation page.  Maybe they were having problems today, but it’s the most confusing page I’ve seen in any of the worlds.

The other world where I had a problem was New World Grid.  I got several errors when I tried opening my account, including being told that my password was too short (it was) and that my email address was invalid (it wasn’t).  When I tried reentering the information, it told me that the avatar already existed, so I tried logging and had no problem, despite the too-short password.

However when I tried creating a second avatar, I got the very same errors but this time I wasn’t able to log on with that avatar.  Very confusing!

I use the Imprudence viewer for logging into all these worlds; if a world isn’t listed in the Grids on the Imprudence login page, you can use the Grid Manager to add it.  You can also use other viewers, including Phoenix and Hippo.

Discovering Second Life

Hawk Lightcloud in 2004

Fireworks are traditional on American Independence Day, July 4, and so when my sister was unable to see first life fireworks yesterday, I bought her a set of Henry deCuir’s Second Life® fireworks and we spent the evening on her waterfront land in the Second Life mainland with a friend watching fireworks.

The fireworks were beautiful and were a vivid reminder to both of us just how much Second Life has improved visually in the six years since I first joined. This picture shows me (as my Hawk Lightcloud avatar) in May 2004, when I was still a landless vagrant in this new virtual world, before I took advantage of the Land for the Landless program that Linden Lab used to offer and became the proud owner of a 512sqm parcel in Benten.

Second Life wasn’t a very interesting place in those days, with only about 4,000 members and graphics that we’d laugh at today. Clothes were basic, avatars were basic, and landscaping was basic. I had come from the virtual world There.com, a world where I had good friends and that I loved. There.com had a beautiful range of content and smooth operating vehicles (I was freestyle hoverboard champion) that Second Life just could not match.

But one of my friends in There.com, Swen_Wu_Kong, had migrated to Second Life a few months earlier as Lumiere Noir, the founder of the magnificent Ivory Tower of Primitives. In those days, Second Life wasn’t a very appealing world compared to There and I didn’t see what Lumiere Noir saw in it … until I got my Land for the Landless parcel and rezzed my first prim. It was one of those eureka! moments. Suddenly it all made sense. My former world was a world where creating original objects meant paying license fees, buying and learning expensive software, and signing over all intellectual property rights to the company that owned the world.

That first day of rezzing prims opened my eyes to a whole new way of doing things. I had been skeptical in Second Life’s beta days about Philip Rosedale’s vision of a world of user-created content. I just didn’t think it would work, and the starkness of Second Life compared with the rich beauty of There.com seemed proof. But the moment I began rezzing prims, modifying them, linking them, creating objects, all without any previous skills, without buying software or paying license fees, and with Linden Lab granting me all intellectual property rights to what I created, I suddenly understood the brilliance of Rosedale’s vision. I still loved There.com, and I missed my friends there, but the combination of easy-to-use building tools and intellectual property ownership rights convinced me immediately that Second Life was the right place for me.

It’s significant that a few months ago There.com went out of business while Second Life thrives. I doubt whether we’d see the intense creativity or the involvement of major businesses in Second Life without those two things that convinced me six years ago that Second Life was the right place for me.

Debugging Second Life performance problems

Your avatar tries to walk, but goes nowhere, then after finally making some progress suddenly gets whipped backward. If it continues happening, what should you do?

Problems like this are examples of lag, and can be caused by either the Second Life server, your network connection, your computer, or your Second Life Preference settings. This article will survey some basics of what you need to know to diagnose the problem, and will provide links to sources of more complete information.

Before getting into diagnosis tools and procedures, there are some basic questions to ask:

– Do you have a dial-up or satellite internet connection? If so, there may be little you can do to get satisfactory performance. Second Life requires a minimum of a dsl or cable internet connection.
– Does your computer meet minimum requirements to run Second Life? These vary depending on your hardware and operating system; you can look up minimum requirements for your system on the system requirements page. Bear in mind that you’ll require more than minimum requirements for a rich Second Life experience.
– Are you using a wired or wireless internet connection? Second Life allows but does not support wireless. In many or most cases a wireless connection may work satisfactorily, but if you’re having problems, first try connecting your computer to the internet with a wired connection before doing further diagnosis.

After you’ve eliminated those possible causes of your performance problems, you can move on to other possible causes. One key piece of information you’ll need is where you’re experiencing the problem and whether others are also experiencing it. Try teleporting to several unrelated sims. If you have the same problem in all sims, you can probably eliminate the server as a source of the problem. If no one else is experiencing the problem and you experience it in several different sims, then the problem is probably in your computer or your internet connection.

Second Life now has a handy tool for helping to isolate the cause of your problem. It’s the Lag Meter. You can open in by clicking the Help menu and selecting "Lag Meter". It’s shown in the picture above. All three buttons should be green. If any are orange or red, then there’s a problem, with red problems being the more serious.

Client button: "Client" refers to the Second Life software (the Second Life viewer) running on your computer. If the Client button is orange or red, it indicates a problem with your client, probably in your Second Life Preferences settings. Some settings to look at are your Graphics draw distance, putting a check mark next to "Avatar Imposters", turning off particles, and setting the Avatar Mesh slider to a lower setting. You can get more options in the links provided at the end of this article.

Network Button: This indicates a problem with your internet connection. Possible causes include your router, your ISP, your antivirus and firewall software, and other programs running while you’re in Second Life. If you’re having network problems, then clearing your Second Life cache may help. You can clear your cache by clicking Edit/Preferences/Network and then clicking the Clear Cache button.

Server Button: This indicates the problem may be on the Second Life server running the sim that you’re in. The problem is not necessarily the server itself. There may be too many scripts running, or too many avatars in or looking into the sim.

Here are some links for getting more information and for reporting problems:

Information about using the Lag Meter

If you’re technically minded, the Statistics Bar (you can select it from the View menu) can be very useful. Read about it here.

If you read these links and explore the Knowledge Base but can’t find an answer, you can get information about filing a trouble ticket or chatting with support. Note that only Premium and Concierge Second Life members can file trouble tickets. Basic members can learn what support services they qualify for here.

The following video will give you information about using the Lag Meter.

Now you can follow Apollo on Facebook!

Second Life: Dollhouse or Reality?

This weekend I heard someone say, "Second Life is just a dollhouse where people spend their time dressing avatar dolls and furnishing virtual houses!" Someone else insisted, "Second Life is a game for people who don’t want to admit they’re roleplaying."

So what is Second Life? Is it just a game, a place where folks waste their time dressing dolls and role playing, or is it something more? This picture shows a dollhouse in Second Life that you can actually buy (at Babydolls Boutique), but let’s that put aside. The criticism of Second Life isn’t that it contains dollhouses, but that it is a dollhouse.

Dictionary.com quotes the following Random House Dictionary definition of a dollhouse as, "a miniature house the scale of children’s dolls," and the American Heritage® Dictionary definition as, "A small model house used as a children’s toy or to display miniature dolls and furniture."

If all a person ever does in Second Life is modify the appearance of their house, then the first description would be pretty accurate, but how many of us limit ourselves to working on our Second Life houses and doing nothing else? There may be some, but no one I know. If the dollhouse is taken to be Second Life itself, and not literally our houses in it, the analogy is even less valid. "Toy" and "miniature" do not begin to describe Second Life, a world which spans the globe, with generally 60,000 or more people logged on at any one time, and in which many of the world’s largest corporations and universities have an active presence. People are building businesses, establishing careers, and finding new ways to interact in Second Life. It is no dollhouse.

The role play argument may be slightly harder to dismiss. Dictionary.com offers two definitions for roleplay:
1. To assume the attitudes, actions, and discourse of (another), esp. in a make-believe situation in an effort to understand a differing point of view or social interaction: Management trainees were given a chance to roleplay labor negotiators.
2. To experiment with or experience (a situation or viewpoint) by playing a role: trainees role-playing management positions.

Roleplaying is clearly a huge and vibrant part of Second Life. It takes many forms. You can fight with guns, knives, and arrows in a reproduction of the 19th century American Southwest, or do high tech battle in science fiction sims. There are fantasy battles, and there’s even a reproduction of real life jail, where people can voluntarily be locked up as virtual prisoners for a week, or play at being guards or other prison staff. There’s also a virtual wrestling league where avatars can engage in wrestling matches; I wrote about it in April. It’s clearly roleplaying.

A few months ago, I wrote about a Muslim sim where you can go on a virtual Hajj. Roleplaying can be an attempt to understand other cultures, and this Hajj is one way of doing it. This is a classic, nongame use of roleplaying.

The line between roleplaying and real life becomes murkier in Second Life places like the 1920s Harlem Cotton Club, which I wrote about in May and New York City’s Chelsea Hotel, which I’ve also written about. Both are places that replicate a different time and place, where people can dress up to fit in with the setting, but where the primary reason for going is to listen to live music and dance.

Another murky area is the forms that our avatars take. Few people have avatars that mimic their real life appearance. Most of us don’t even try. When we choose avatars of a different gender, or nonhuman avatars, is it roleplaying?

But is everything in Second Life roleplaying? If a singer adopts a furry avatar and establishes a global base of fans through Second Life performances, or a college offers classes conducted entirely in Second Life (which I wrote about recently), or when Pop Art Lab tries to change how people worldwide listen to music, which I wrote about on Saturday, is it roleplaying?

It’s not. When people are creating new things, establishing new careers, and building businesses, they are generally not engaged in make-believe or simply playing roles. It’s for real. And this aspect of Second Life is real. Call it synthetic reality, augmented reality, or whatever you want, but it’s real, an augmentation of our physical lives, allowing us to do things and meet people we could not if we were limited to the physical world.

Second Life certainly can be used as a dollhouse or for roleplaying, but it can also be used – and is being used – for very real activities that augment our physical lives.

SLCC Day Four

Linden Lab's Tom Hale at Day 4 of SLCC 2009

Day four of the Second Life Community Convention began with.Linden Lab‘s Tom Hale (pictured on the right) unveiling new features that are coming soon, and sneak peaks at wish list items we could see over the coming year. These include features such as searchable maps, pre-developed land for sale, a new registration form for new members (thank you, Linden Lab … I’ve had to guide several noobs through the confusing current registration procedure!), a new social website-like dashboard that integrates the various aspects of a resident’s Second Life existence, and a redesigned secondlife.com website. There were also mentions of plans to allow use of allowing the use of mesh for 3D modeling, allowing multiple media textures including Flash, interactive web textures that allow clicking on links, and collaborative text editing.

Scene from the machinima Orientation, made by Chantal Harvey

In the afternoon, machinimas from the 2009 MaMachinima Festival were shown. The next two pictures are from two of the machinimas shown. The first is from the machinima Orientation, which was made in Second Life at Virtual Holland by Chantal Harvey, with performance by Arthole (Arahan Claveau and Nebulosus Severine). The next one is from Erlkönig, based on the story by 18th century German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and made in Second Life by Cisco Vandeverre.

According to the Mamachinama website, these machinimas can all be viewed from within Second Life, but when I tried it, the SLURL was for an invalid location. DVDs were handed out to people at SLCC, which is where these images came from.

Scene from the machinima Erlkonig, made by Cisco Vandeverr

One of the most amazing workshops to me was the one in which Max the Virtual Guide Dog was demonstrated. Most people don’t know that there are blind people in Second Life, who join for essentially the same reasons that sighted people do – to have fun and to meet people. Max allows the visually-impaired to navigate through Second Life and be aware of where they are, where they are headed, and what objects and avatars are around them. You can learn more at the Virtual Guide Dog Project.

This was the fourth and final day of SLCC 2009. You can read about the preceding days of the convention in Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.